The First Guyandotte Baptist Church is one of the oldest Baptist congregations in the area. It was officially established in 1858, although some sources claim that a Baptist church existed in the community as early as 1812. A brick sanctuary was built on Richmond Street and included a gallery for slaves to attend services. During the Battle of Guyandotte in November 1861 Union troops burned down the church in retaliation for casualties incurred by Confederate raiders. A new white-sided church was built on the same location in 1867 and remains in operation to this day. In 1909 the federal government awarded the church $2,500 for damages caused by Union forces during the Civil War.
The Baptists were one of the first religious
denominations to organize congregations west of the Appalachian Mountains, with
the earliest attempt dating to the 1740s. By 1800 there were at least sixteen
Baptist churches in present-day West Virginia. Many of these churches formed
associations, which loosely united congregations within a certain area. These
associations helped provide churches with ministers, financial support, and
maintain adherence to Baptist doctrine. At some point a Guyandotte Baptist
Association was created for Cabell County and the surrounding area; the First Guyandotte
Baptist Church became the Association’s second member.
Some sources state that a Baptist church existed in
Guyandotte as early as 1812, if not earlier, but no known written records exist
to prove these claims. It is generally recognized that the First Guyandotte
Baptist Church was formally organized on November 8, 1858. It originally had
fourteen charter members, and a J. C. Reece served as the first pastor. Little
is known about the early years of the church because many of the records are
believed to have been destroyed during the Civil War. Sometime after the church’s
establishment a brick sanctuary was constructed on Richmond Street. It also contained
an interior gallery for slaves to attend services.
It is unclear whether or not the Baptist Church
supported slavery, but most of the town of Guyandotte supported slavery and
secession during the Civil War. On November 11, 1861, the church became one of
two (along with the Guyandotte Methodist Church) to be destroyed by Union
troops in retaliation for casualties incurred during the Battle of Guyandotte
on November 10. Reportedly it took Union troops three tries to burn down the
sanctuary; after two failed tries, the soldiers ripped off the shutters,
stuffed them with straw, and then set them alight inside the belfry.
After the war a new church building was erected on
the same site as the original in 1867. This sanctuary, which still stands
today, featured white siding and was based off the Greek Revival Victorian
style of church architecture. Decades later the members of the church
petitioned the federal government to compensate the congregation for damages
incurred by Union forces during the war. Congress finally awarded the church
$2,500 in damages in 1909.